‘Ia Orana, all! My name is Keanu. I am from Tahiti, French Polynesia, and I am studying at the University of Hawai‘i. For my NOAA internship, I had the chance to work at the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), an estuary and State Nature Preserve on Lake Erie. My role at Old Woman Creek NERR was to collect, manage, and analyze data for the Phenological Species Monitoring Program. Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. Studying the phenology of species helps us understand how climate change affects flora and fauna that live in Old Woman Creek’s ecosystem.
Old Woman Creek NERR studies species that have large effects on the ecosystem (keystone species) and species whose presence can tell us about environmental conditions (indicator species), such as the tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), lungless salamanders (family Plethodontidae), and the common muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus).
My project focused on the potential impact(s) of muskrats on the amount of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, in Old Woman Creek estuary. This preliminary study aimed to investigate links between wildlife conservation and water quality goals in Lake Erie coastal wetlands.
Most of my previous research experience focused on marine ecosystems in island-systems. During my internship, I learned about issues associated with the conservation and management of coastal resources in freshwater ecosystems, such as those existing in the Great Lakes Region.
Thanks to my fellow interns at Old Woman Creek, my stay in Ohio was even more enjoyable as I was able to travel around the state during our leisure time. I am very fortunate to have worked with Old Woman Creek NERR, and my experience will be valuable in addressing coastal management issues in Pacific islands where resources also are limited and proper management practices are essential for the well-being of the local community.
Keanu is a 2021 Hollings scholar and environmental science major at the University of Hawai‘i.